WAR is just a filthy tragedy. But it has always been like that, whether it was the violent age that was Renaissance, the Roman Empire, or the
Golden Age in Greece.
When reporters describe dying in war, are you helping abolish war? What is the magical attraction to war and the risk and defiance of death? No one is insensitive to heroism and the natural habitat of heroism is war. Nowhere does heroism burst out as in those in war, when it has the unique price of death.
Many of those who left for war were fresh and muscular, around 20-21 years old young back then, strong and resolute, bonded in that kind of relationships war forges with fire and steel.
Now, these men sit on wheelchairs or walk aided by a cane. Some can no longer walk or some are unable to speak to us about the death-defying and wartime sacrifices they survived so well in what seems oh so long ago.
Craggy-faced veterans in their uniforms and garrisons caps bedecked with medals of valor, as their stomachs are in, shoulders back, and their lined faces adamant in their manliness. Beautiful in their frailty, these sprinkling remnants of World War II continue to evoke a powerful sense of something definitive in our part of that most fecund tragedy that can never be remembered.
Time has shrunk them, snapped bones, indefatigable, microbes, exhausted hearts that continue to deplete, it has creased their skin; hobbled organs that every day is lived on razor’s edge of will.
World War II veterans of an era are withdrawn into mere abstractions. As we go in with a generalizing, romanticizing and trivializing of their war and those who endured it, these gentle, noble survivors, who will always think of themselves as former soldier, on how in the eyes of the entire nation, as well as the entire world, were fixed on them as the young men ready to live at close quotes with death, in the name of freedom.
It wasn’t just the colors or the uniform, nevermind if it’s just a few moments to show off their medals and remember, but it was bittersweet. As they pass, people stood in quiet respect and eulogy from whispers of the past.
It was time once more to honor the men and women and what they died for, in a moment of celebration, despite the bloody cost.
It was always a proud day for Filipinos celebrating Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor). It’s a day of retracing the steps of the years ago, revving the bloody sacrifices as they honor fallen comrades, as honor guards paced slowly through the crowd, followed by the men in uniform, some not fitting tightly across the stomach, others fitting as trimly, as the day they were first worn.
The Fil-Am community began to clap and stomp their feet as some began to cry. The people’s applause was special because it wasn’t in the program. There was no cue; they simply put their hands together in long sustained ovations for the bemedalled veterans of a world war, who came perhaps for the last time to pay tribute to the few left among them, and their untucked memories.
What is disturbing today is the sad remnant of WWII fighters still waging a battle, almost certainly the last major struggle in a sprinkling number of what is left of them. Not all shoes fought, in their more than half-century quiet to be recognized as American veterans, is still a struggle.
These men and women, Filipino soldiers and guerillas, whose own service of the United States, should have entitled them to the same benefits as millions of other GIs from Normandy and Iwo Jima, but were lost out to the Supplemental Surplus Recession Act of 1946, when they’ve fought side by side in the Bataan Peninsula, at Leyte Gulf and in the mountains of Luzon.
It makes you think even deeper. Nowhere else in Asia did subject people support and defend the colonial master? Didn’t the Indochine turn on the French? The Indonesian on the Dutch and Malaysian and Burma against the British? Only Filipinos remained loyal.
In a day of tribute about wartime sacrifices, nobody stands taller in remembrance than the World War II veteran. Feeling proud but forgotten, battle scarred and fighting old, old age and infirmity, he embodies poignant messages of duty, honor and undying love, heroism and sacrifice.
E-mail Mylah at email@example.com